Collaborating with WAHO on Regional HRIS Strengthening

Two months ago, the HRIS team received a contact through our website. The form was submitted by a professor in Burkina Faso who wrote he was interested in the iHRIS Suite and asked if there were plans to release a French version. After much follow up and communication, this seemingly simple inquiry has turned into an exciting opportunity to provide HRIS strengthening support for an entire region of Africa.

The professor is Kayode Odusote, the director for HR development for the West African Health Organization (WAHO), and he’s stationed in WAHO’s headquarters office in Burkina Faso. Created by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), WAHO serves all its 15 member countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. WAHO’s objective is to ensure the people of ECOWAS attain the highest possible standard of health, through harmonization of policies and pooling of resources to strategically combat health problems in the region.

Additional email exchanges revealed WAHO’s HRIS strengthening goals: pilot the iHRIS Manage software in the Northern Region of Ghana to explore its ability to collate and analyze routine HRH data and to determine indicators for decision-making and, once completed, disseminate the pilot results to all the HRH directors of WAHO’s member countries. Professor Odusote explained, “We hope it would become the standard HRIS software in the region, as we could then exchange information and experiences as well as aggregate regional data readily.”  Further, as many WAHO countries are Francophone, there are bilingual WAHO team members keen on collaborating to release a French version of the software. After discussing installation options with Carl Leitner, iHRIS developer, WAHO opted for the iHRIS Appliance (a small, low cost machine loaded with required software) for the pilot.

The Northern Region Health Directorate was selected as the initial pilot site. The pilot started with training staff of the HR Department of the Directorate and selected HR staff from other units in Tamale and Accra.  The training was conducted by Professor Odusote and Kofi Afari of the Ghana Ministry of Health, first using the iHRIS software demo on DVD and later using the demo installed on the iHRIS Appliance.  Professor Odusote reported the participants were excited about the software and they were satisfied with the level of security it provided for sensitive staff information.

After the training and with virtual support from Carl, Kofi installed a fresh version of iHRIS Manage on the Appliance and customized it for the Northern Region. Since the Health Directorate office does not have a local area network (LAN), WAHO procured a router and Kofi set it up as a LAN connected to the appliance. Then, seven computers were hooked up to the LAN and the local HR managers who were trained were now able to start the pilot testing using the “live” data of employees of the MOH in the region. According to the professor, “this is the configuration we would be using for most of the deployments in future as many units may not have LAN and for increased security of personal staff data.”

In an email, Kofi thanked Carl for his assistance during this initial stage of piloting iHRIS Manage in the region.  He explained that the Ghana MOH had an existing District Health Information System [an early version of the DHIS software developed by Health Information System Programme (HISP)], and they had been trying to add an HR component. Because the system was Access-based, they were encountering challenges expanding it. “The way forward now,” he said, “is we want to rebuild the whole system and make it web-based.” He added, “The dream of our health sector is to have a unified system, which would inculcate all the data we collect so analysis can be done at all levels to facilitate decision making.” To this end, in early 2010 WAHO plans to present the pilot results at the HRH directors’ annual meeting and deploy the iHRIS software in other member countries upon request.

Recently, opportunities have arisen to collaborate with other organizations working to strengthen health information in the WAHO region. For instance, Health Metrics Network (HMN) is supporting the Sierra Leone MOH to implement DHIS2 software (a more advanced, open source version of the DHIS software) and plans are underway to also implement iHRIS Manage and OpenMRS (an open source medical records system). This information was shared with the professor, who was most interested in joining the conversation and linking in several of his WAHO colleagues. It’s possible that if all goes well with the Ghana pilot, Sierra Leone may be the next WAHO country to deploy iHRIS.

Ola Titlestad, Technical Officer for HMN, said The Gambia is also in the process of implementing DHIS2 and Burkina Faso has expressed interest. As they are both WAHO countries, Ola sees the potential for further collaboration between all the organizations, “There seems to be a lot of common factors here, especially around implementation of iHRIS and DHIS, the active involvement of WAHO, and the need to build regional capacity in West Africa to drive and own this process.”

Check back for more updates on our collaboration with WAHO.